GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11: (L-R) Todd Heap #86, Levi Brown #75, Sione Fua #94, Jeff King #87, David Carter #79, Lyle Sendlein #63, Daryn Colledge #71 and Vonnie Holliday #91 of the Arizona Cardinals walk off the field before the NFL season opening game against the Carolina Panthers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Carindals defeated the Panthers 28-21. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Wait...I know what you are thinking. You question the fact that the Arizona Cardinals had a plan for their offensive line. In fact, I wondered a bit myself. But in a quick Facebook conversation with our very own khodder I realized something -- the Cardinals did have a pretty decent plan to maintain and develop their offensive line. The problem is that things did not quite work out the way they had planned.
So let us take a look.
Now, I do not claim to know what the team had planned before this offseason, but if you look at the contracts doled out in free agency, the team was first looking to stabilize the line now. Last offseason, they signed Daryn Colledge and Lyle Sendlein to five-year contracts. This offseason, they re-signed Levi Brown to give continuity on the left side, to a five-year contract. On the right side, they added guard Adam Snyder -- to a five-year contract. They still had Jeremy Bridges under contract and brought back D'Anthony Batiste. They also retained tackle D.J. Young, who was on the practice squad for almost the entire 2011 season.
Already four of the five line positions were set for the next four seasons. Only right tackle was in question. Bridges would be...a bridge...to a younger player they developed.
Since we know that continuity happens to be one of the biggest factors to effectiveness on the offensive line, the team planned on having that on the left side. By bringing in Snyder, they brought in a veteran they believed could be at least adequate. Then Bridges or Batiste would hold down right tackle for some one else.
None of the linemen are what you would consider to be aging, so the unit could be together for multiple seasons.
They took care of the "now."
In drafting Massie, Kelemete and Potter, and in retaining Young, they infused youth to develop. Since they are players drafted later, they would be brought along without rush in most cases to become solid players.
You would think that it was a pretty solid plan. As for the right side, you can question whether Snyder was an upgrade over Rex Hadnot, but the team obviously thought he was. Hadnot still had another year on his contract and they cut him. With Bridges at right tackle (or Batiste), I believe that they wanted to basically hold things together.
Levi Brown was sort of the linchpin. He played well the second half of the 2011 season. He was the best option in the free agent market when you balanced knowledge of offensive schemes, talent and durability. Having him at left tackle kept the whole left side intact.
When he got hurt, being lost for the season, it caused chaos. There did not seem to be a plan in place just in case something like this happened. It would be the one thing that was not planned for. If he stays healthy, you can feel okay with the early struggles on the right side because it is the first time those players play together and, being veterans, you expect things to come together at some point.
Maybe a young player steps in, or maybe not. But they would in the seasons to come. Now, you either have one of the young players in the starting lineup or versatility taken away from the reserves (both Bridges and Batiste can play both tackle and guard).
What seems to be in place now is that the journeyman (Batiste) and the rookie (Massie) will be the players to hold things down. Most believed that Massie would eventually take over on that side anyway.
The funny thing of it all is how everyone's perspective has changed with Levi Brown. Once the whipping boy, now he is viewed as the anchor.
It would appear that the team saw him as the anchor as well.
His injury has really scrambled things.
But in the end, we can see that Arizona did have a plan in place -- and actually a decent one. They had veterans that could potentially play together for multiple seasons, they didn't turn over too much of the line and they added youth behind the starters to develop. They had the "now," the near future and the long-term future of the line under control.
That is, until Levi Brown got hurt.
Looking at it this way, do you see the team's approach to the offensive line any differently? Would you feel differently about the line's play if Brown were still there and the team were only dealing with some early transition on the right side for cohesiveness?
Give us all your thoughts in the comments below!
Keep up with Cardinals news and opinions when you are not on the site. Follow Revenge of the Birds on Twitter at @revengeofbirds and "like" us on Facebook. You can follow me individually at @senorjessroot.